Marketing for a retreat is one of the key pieces that can also take a lot of time. If you’ve been following along on my “How to Plan a Retreat” series, you’ll note that most of my posts have to do with the retreat itself. Marketing a retreat is an entirely different beast, and it’s something I’ve had a bit of experience with, having worked in marketing for over fifteen years. In this post, I address how to market a retreat.
I was excited to get an email from Deidre, who is planning a retreat in Texas, and she was curious about marketing her event. Here is her email (used with her blessing):
First thank you for all the retreat information I found on your site. My question is: do you have a time-line as far as once you have your date, place, etc, how soon prior to the date of the retreat do you start promoting it? And how far from the retreat date do you ask for final payments? Just what is the marketing or promotional time-line for a retreat and what does that entail?
Thank you so much and Blessings!
Deidre also let me know her price point ($150 for the weekend, a great deal!), and that she is targeting a group of women that she already knows from Church. She’s open to having other women attend. And her tag line (I LOVE THIS!) is: Relax your Body, Renew your Mind, Rejuvenate your Spirit
And here are my thoughts:
With this response, I’m assuming that you may not fill the spots you have with just your immediate group of Church friends, and that you want to invite others if the spots are not full. If that’s not true, you can simplify what I’ve said below. I’m also suggesting a tiered approach in your pricing: an early bird and regular price. This is intended to drive interest amongst your core group; and marketing is not always straight forward; a lower price may encourage people to commit sooner to you. If you go with a tiered rate, and are not looking to make a profit, there’s always the opportunity to donate the money to a charity, buy additional supplies, or keep the funds for a scholarship for next year. I would use that as a selling point if you’re running with it – something like “all proceeds will be used to …” that way no one questions why someone paid more or less.
Around your retreat, though, I would start talking/ marketing about it five-six months out, and start with the people you know might be interested and are in your Church or group. If you can, consider offering an early bird rate for either a set number of people or until a certain date. Maybe $150 is the “early bird” rate (or just call it that to drive interest), but let them know you need their commitment and down payment (or full payment) by a set date. If you plan to charge a little more for “regular” price, state that too (let them know what it is), and give the initial group your cut off date to get the discount price. I’d limit the window of opportunity to 6-8 weeks for the group you already know and work with (and they can still register later, but let them know you’re opening it up to the public).
Even though you know the folks, I’d still suggest a contract that outlines what they get, when the last payment is due, your policy around cancellations, and any kind of “hold harmless” or legal language. (they won’t sue you if they get hurt, there’s no refunds if they can’t attend last minute, have to leave early – that kind of thing). I’d recommend covering yourself just in the event something unexpected happens.
If the core group of people that are part of your group doesn’t fill the spots in that set amount of time I’d start advertising for other women. Reach out to other churches and see if you can get in their bulletin. Create a free page about the retreat on Facebook and invite all of your friends. Maybe offer a giveaway/raffle in exchange for people sharing the info. Give yourself plenty of time to get the spots filled, and in turn, you can also create some buzz around the event (that might build into next year’s event). Advertise at a slightly higher rate for “regular price.” Along with that, you can contact companies who have expertise in direct mail marketing services which include printed mailers, monthly newsletters, etc.
Keeping clients in the loop about event updates and other necessary info through emails could help act as a natural promotion for the event, and may help improve your reach to the target audience as well. Many businesses tend to make use of various marketing strategies including the use of different SEO tools to help digitize their business. If you’re doubtful about using these tools, get in touch with an SEO agency Bath (or wherever you prefer) as they might be able to provide you with a viable solution on how to go about using various marketing tools. It’s crucial that your emails reach the right audience in order for you to gain more customers.
Additionally, you may also want to make use of the latest marketing strategies, such as videos and Meme that can attract more visitors to the occasion. As people are more connected on social media, your content may spread like wildfire if people find it engaging.
As for final payments, I’d check with the place where you are running the retreat. Mine requires full payment (and locks everything in) by 45 days out from the event date. So, for my upcoming November retreat, I will offer payment plans, but everything needs to be paid in full by that date. And, if I still have spots open past the 45 day window, I can still add to my numbers but I will require that those folks pay up front. If someone hasn’t paid in full, I will have to make it clear that they can’t attend if they are not in good standing. My thinking here is that I can’t financially cover individuals (should it turn our they are unable to pay), even if they have the best intentions.
Timelines around specific marketing are harder to speak to, not knowing your budget or your own social media reach or expertise. You may want to check out Pat Flynn’s site for some tips on marketing – while you are not holding a virtual conference, this interview offers some great ideas around how to promote an event: http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/how-to-put-on-a-virtual-conference/
Do you have any questions around a retreat you’re hosting that you’d like for me to answer? Drop me a note at welcomingspirit at gmail dot com. I’d love to hear from you.
Check out the rest of this “Plan a Retreat” series:
How to Plan a Retreat: The Beginning
How to Plan a Retreat: Coming up with a Theme
How to Plan a Retreat: Putting Together a Timeline
How to Plan a Retreat: Making the Flyer
How to Plan a Retreat: Using Your Resources
How to Plan a Retreat: Marketing the Retreat
If you’re working on planning a retreat, check out this podcast episode:
Sign up and receive a free retreat planning worksheet: